Does Adding Worms to Your Compost Bin Make a Difference?

A few months ago, I placed a few red wiggler worms in my outdoor trash can compost bin to see what they would do.

It ends up they multiplied and they’re eating through my food scraps nicely!

Composting worms make a great addition to compost bins smaller than 1 cubic yard.  Technically, they work with any size system, but the worms will make more of a noticeable difference with smaller systems since they take longer to process organic material.

Two issues with small-scale compost bins include that they don’t get as hot, and the contents don’t break down as fast- adding worms will greatly help with both.

I Still Get Strange Looks When I Do This…

backpackFor some reason, I still get vibed out when I bring my own bag to the grocery store… how is this still a foreign concept?

Then again, old habits die hard and forming new habits is a pain in the ass, too- I get that (I’ve been trying to quit biting my fingernails for over a decade and still haven’t kicked it).

Anyway, up above is a picture of my backpack.  I’ve had it forever, and it has served me well in more situations than I can count.

The little bag at the bottom of the picture is the Chico Bag.

Between these two items, there’s no reason why I should I ever have to use a bag, paper or plastic- again.

Of course there’s times where you might forget- The Chico Bag has a little clip on it so you can attach it to something, if you remember to do that.

Plastic bags are the worst and paper bags aren’t all that much better.  I’ve talked about this in the past plenty of times and I’ll continue to mention it until not only do we have a bag tax but everyone is subconsciously doing it.

[Bringing your own bags isn’t a groundbreaking message, either…trust me, I’m aware.  However, it’s important to speak up…I guess.]

Admittedly, I’m still the guy that gets annoyed when someone asks me if I’d like a bag for that single item I purchased that fits in my fist… “it’s for convenience” was always the original response.  Over the last year or so, responses have increasingly changed to “you’d be surprised how many people ask for a bag”.

Either there’s more jerks like me, or more people are declining the bag.  Either way, just decline the bag.  Millions of these things are wasted per day, and their life is about 5 minutes.

Plastic bags (and film plastics in general) are considered a contaminant by the recycling industry.  As for paper bags, I can either pray to the recycling gods it will get recycled (best option assuming it does get recycled), or I can confidently compost it at home, but at least you can see it through without relying on anyone else.

Get in the habit of carrying a backpack to the grocery store, or a duffle bag, or a bunch of Chico Bags, or a well-made reusable bag, or really anything.  Use the bottom of your shirt.  Tuck your pant leg into your sock.  Fill up your shoes with quinoa and granola and walk home barefoot.

This is merely step 1 in cutting your plastic footprint.  Check out Beth Terry’s Plastic Free to take it to the next level… this book rules.  She’s very aware how tricky it is to cut your plastic intake, and even acknowledges how frustrating it can be to avoid purchasing plastic.  At one point it even led her to drink a lot- sadly I know exactly what this feels like.

Just try it.  If you’re frustrated with how to make a positive impact, or just want to “get involved” a bit more, or you’re up for an extremely simple challenge with a simple benefit for the entire glob of star stuff we live on- bag your own groceries in your own bag (and don’t give me that “you’re putting someone out of a job” crap either- think a little harder about that one).

No Impact Man…Had an Impact on Me.

I finally saw No Impact Man… only came out in 2009, not bad right?

There’s not a whole lot to say about it… I definitely went into it jaded and hoping that I would learn something- it ended up exceeding my expectations for sure.

He knew what he was talking about- he understood that plastics recycling is not the end of our responsibilities, as plastics are fluctuating commodities and most of them aren’t recycled anyway.  He understood the importance of composting, biking, and satisfaction through reduction.

What I related to the most were the scenes that focused on him questioning the whole point of the project- Who cares?  Does anyone care?  What’s the point?

Anyone that digs into environmental issues will have this wash of emotions hit them in the head from time to time.  It reminded me of Plastic Free when Beth Terry talks about how she started getting wasted more often the more she learned- I can relate.

From the start, I was curious if he was going to create a compost toilet system or if he’d go with worm composting like apartment dwellers often feel limited to.  He went with the worms, and while there were several positive scenes showing them doing their thing, he ended up having bug infestations and didn’t show if he solved them.

A vinegar and dish soap trap usually does it, and they’re totally necessary as you will at some point have bugs- it’s a natural ecosystem and they’re part of it.

I loved the pot-in-pot refrigerator… I’ve never seen anyone do it, I’ve only heard about it.  Therefore, I think that’s what I’m going to learn more about next.  It seemed like the family gave up on it really quickly in the movie.

I think that’s my major takeaway from this- don’t simply talk about something, or even just read about something- just try something.  Failing sucks (kind of), but at the end of the day the only way you’ll really understand your perspectives is by just trying stuff out.

I suck at cooking- but I’ve seen time and time again how people have made their meals from bulk bins with no problem.  Time to start cringing while I get better at cooking.  I made the worst meal the other day, but it got my gears turning on how to make it better tonight and I felt it start tuning my taste buds to know when something needs a little more of this and a little less of that.

My juicing regimen is plastic and packaging free, so why not make my food that way?  Sure, I could say I don’t have time blah blah blah, but that’s always the excuse, isn’t it?

Like another opinion needs to be heard regarding No Impact Man… I got tired of being asked if I saw it and that kept me from seeing it…how stupid is that.

Anyway, any negative critique of it is simply close-minded people projecting their own insecurities onto him and his family.

If someone can’t understand that humanity is the problem and that we’re not important besides the pollution we create, which results in the destruction of our planet…well, take his advice and go try something new.

Kudos, No Impact Family- you made a hell of an impact.

Dumpster Diving Tips

The other day I happened to be exploring in a messy Center City alley when I found my favorite dumpster a complete mess.  There were opened trash bags all over the place, and some people loudly walking away with a bunch of stuff.

I feel like a cranky old fart… this is the kind of behavior that causes businesses to replace dumpsters with compactors, and add chains and barbed-wire fences to protect their so-called waste.  Manners really go a long way here.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone over the rules of dumpster diving…I think it’s time to review:

1) If you remove stuff from the dumpster, put it back when you’re done.  Leave the area cleaner than you found it- don’t be a jerk.

2) Don’t go through dumpsters during business hours unless you’re being extremely discreet.

3) If an employee sees you digging and asks you to leave, do it.  Apologize and come back another time.

4) Assume that what you’re doing is illegal, even if you’re sure it isn’t.  Is it private property?  Is it trespassing?  Is it theft?  Probably not, but it isn’t a debate I feel like having with a pissed off employee or police officer- get in and get out fast!

5) If you find personal information, which you most likely will, deface it.  Give them a pass and hopefully they’ll learn to protect their privacy soon.

6) Only take what you need.

 

Quick tips:

1) If you’re working from inside the dumpster, which I recommend, wear a headlamp.  Nothing is more annoying than having a flashlight in your mouth.  Gloves go a long way, too.

2) Go with a buddy.  Having a lookout comes in handy, especially if you’re both inside the dumpster.  Nothing is more annoying than having a bag of trash dumped on you.

3) If it’s a high profile mission, hang around the area in advance without actually digging.  Are there cameras?  Security vehicles?  Do employees come outside to have a smoke every ten minutes?  Timing is key.

Obviously I don’t have all the answers, but following these simple guidelines will ensure you don’t run into any issues and walk away with stuff that would have otherwise hit the landfill.  Good luck!

Is Indoor Composting A Bad Idea?

The question remains: what can I do to compost through the winter months?  The answer is to collect as much cover material (leaves, straw) as you can.  Since composting slows to a crawl in the colder months, having extra cover material is important to ensure your deposits are covered.

Otherwise, try your hand at vermicomposting!

Be sure to sign up along the right hand side of this page for my free email course on how to create killer compost in just 7 simple steps, no matter what your situation is.

Get in touch with any questions and be on the lookout for more videos and an e-book coming soon.

Give composting your best shot through the winter season- have some fun and get creative.

Thanks for watching!

Plastic vs. Cardboard+Crappier Plastic

seventh generation bottlesWow, this is the first I’m seeing a non-plastic detergent bottle…cool?

Let’s compare: On the right, we have a 100% recycled plastic cap and bottle made from #2 plastic, which happens to be one of the more “appealing” recoverable plastics from the recycling stream.

On the left, we have an outer container made from cardboard, which is excellent.  It has the same cap as the one on the right, but what’s inside?

As it turns out, there’s a plastic bag of sorts inside… and chances of that getting recycled are much less.

Left side: recyclable outer and top, plus a questionable inner.

Right side: recyclable bottle and cap.

If you haven’t tried making your own detergent yet, I suggest giving it a try.  All you’ll need is a bar of soap, washing soda, and a 5 gallon bucket.  Save money and materials.

My first attempt at it sucked, but with the following batches I’ve gotten better at it.

Seventh Generation appears to be making a genuine effort to reduce their impacts, but with the inner bag most certainly being an item that will hit the landfill, I’d rather stick with the completely recyclable plastic bottle instead.

Above that, going for plastic free over the long haul and saving money and materials while you’re at it seems the best option to me.

Waste of the Week #22: Vancouver Recycling Station

vancouver recycling stationfood scraps signage

I’ve never seen cans quite like these… pretty funny!

Based on their disposal at the time, they seemed pretty effective.

I love the food scraps can… it made me realize that labeling a compost receptacle in a public place as “food scraps” must be the best way.

When you see the word “Organics” or “Compost”, that means you have to know what that means in order to do as requested.

Isn’t compost poop?  Organic food?  I don’t have time for this; I’m just throwing everything in this can.

With “food scraps”, you simply know what that means.  Further, with so many disposable plastic-lined paper products ruining compost everywhere, this might help keep them out of the stream.

The trash can having a lid vs the other two sporting openings seems like a cool way to discourage trash, until someone has actual trash in their hand and they’re too grossed out to touch the lid.

All in all, this setup is awesome and it really nails it in terms of simplicity, color coding, differing cutouts, proper labeling and huge pictures.

What do you think?

Waste of the Week #21: Another Portland Compost Toter

compost toter-lidWhat’s interesting to me about this example is that I still haven’t read the text around the graphics, but I don’t need to- it says “No Garbage Please” and I know the recycling toters are blue here…

I wonder how well their program is doing… I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that seems more “with it” than Portland when it comes to this stuff… maybe Vancouver?

Photos to come!